Reviews of Australian Books #77

The short story collection, Dark Roots by Cate Kennedy, is getting some good reviews in the US with Irene Wanner in "The San Francisco Chronicle" being mostly impressed: "Dark Roots, award-winning Australian poet and writer Cate Kennedy's first book of fiction, shows exactly why putting together a story collection is such a challenge. If each piece ideally aspires to the scope and significance of a novel, a successful book of stories requires multiple outstanding performances - 17 in this case - and it's no wonder the most-often used term reviewers seem to apply to story collections is 'uneven.' Kennedy's book is uneven. A few of its entries miss the mark. But the majority, by far, are fabulous."

And Maud Newton, in "The New York Times", finding the stories in "the Australian writer Cate Kennedy's first collection, are melancholy but deliberate and coolly exact. They depict characters in crisis, often so mired in what Walker Percy called the malaise of everydayness that the horror of their condition is invisible to them. Some of the stories culminate in epiphanies; others hinge on a jolt -- a violent act or loss."

On the "Voynich News" weblog Nick Pelling looks at Vellum by Matt Rubinstein: "Though it has a contemporary European vibe to its vocabulary, Vellum is firmly situated in the Australian geographical and historical landscapes (spinifex, First Fleet, etc): and is all the fresher and more engaging for it. The paradoxical idea of an inland desert lighthouse recurs through the book, and (surprisingly to me) one such does exist, at Point Malcolm: I think this nicely mirrors various Voynich-like conundrums, which I'm sure you can work out for yourself." This novel was published in Australia as A Little Rain on Thursday.

Joel Yanofsnky gives Steve Toltz a boost in "The Montreal Gazette": "There was a time when it was automatic: You cut a first novel some slack. Reviewers, readers, too, were expected to take into account a rookie author's limitations. That often meant understanding when the story was, say, overly autobiographical, when it wasn't imaginative or ambitious enough...But times have changed. Now, first novels are like blockbuster movies and breakfast sandwiches: you go big or you go home...In his debut, A Fraction of the Whole, Australian writer Steve Toltz goes really big. It's not just that this picaresque saga of the criminal and crazy Dean family clocks in at 530 pages. Or that Toltz's mix of know-it-all philosophizing and comic shtick seems to set him up as a successor to literary whiz-kids like Dave Eggers and Jonathan Franzen." Which hopefully won't be the kiss of death for him.

Short notes:

A. Fortis on Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan: "Sometimes these worlds might resemble our own; sometimes we're in the head of some other creature. Sometimes the reader is left disturbed, on edge; other times, hopeful and light. But mostly the former. This is definitely a collection of dark fantasy tales, and it should appeal to adult readers just as much as to YA readers."

Book Lady on The Arrival by Shaun Tan: "An excellent book on immigrant experience. The fantastical artwork gives you a feeling of what it would really be like to go to a new land where most things are not familiar to you. Plus, since the pictures are the only way to understand the story, lots of imagination is required on the reader's end."

Max Barry is one of Colin Matthew's favourite authors, and he is impressed with the author's Jennifer Government: "This book is a clever satire on big corporations and globalization which will cause readers to look at things a little differently when paying attention to commercials or advertisements. There is just enough truth in this book to be scary."

Pre-release reviews of D.M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo: Lamplighter continue to appear ahead of its US release, and Drew found much to enjoy in the new book: "D.M. Cornish continues to astound and delight in this second novel. It might be a bit intimidating for a series to jump from 300 pages (in Foundling) to 600 pages in Lamplighter, but the tale is engaging and the narrative compelling from start to finish."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 29, 2008 10:29 AM.

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